Another example of biased framing by the mainstream media: this is an Associated Press article, and most outlets have been running it under the headline “Homeless are a Challenge for Sarasota, Fla.” You know, as if the homeless are the problem as opposed to the people being given problems. The Washington Post, however, runs it with the more accurate and informative headline “Sarasota’s wealthy and homeless clash in Florida city’s downtown; ACLU has filed 5 lawsuits“:
On a recent sunny winter day on a downtown Sarasota street corner, a cluster of homeless men lounged on the back steps of a building, grimy backpacks and bags at their feet, while a few folks ambled to the nearby bus station.
Parked at a meter just feet from them was a red Ferrari and around the corner was Sur la Table, an upscale cookware store offering $400 juicers.
Newer, wealthy residents in the Gulf Coast city known for its arts scene and beautiful beaches are buying expensive downtown condos so they can live an urban lifestyle — but don’t want the problems associated with a city, including the 700 or so homeless people who inhabit the county, the American Civil Liberties Union and others contend.
They also say authorities, including police, are trying to harass the homeless into leaving the town of 53,000 full-time residents.
Recently, the ACLU uncovered a surveillance video showing an officer throwing a homeless man against a metal grate and received public records that show officers sent messages to each other about “bum hunting.”
“We thought those messages were beyond just being juvenile, but was sort of indicative of the atmosphere that existed in the city,” said Michael Barfield, the legal chair of the ACLU in Sarasota.
To be sure, other warm-weather cities have grappled with problems associated with the homeless. In Florida, Key West has periodically cracked down on “quality of life” offenses such as aggressive panhandling and using residents’ outdoor showers. Miami-Dade County counted nearly 4,000 homeless people either sleeping on the street or in shelters within its borders one year ago.
Barfield said that in the past 18 months, the city has targeted the homeless by removing benches and banning smoking in downtown parks and arrested a homeless man for charging his cellphone on a city-owned outlet in a park. The charge was later dropped.
“I think for a long time we’ve had a lot of issues. The fact that we have a lot of wealthy people downtown, we have a few condos that cater to that type of people, and they’re not quite used to dealing with the lowly and downtrodden,” said Steve McAllister, a Sarasota native who says he chooses to be homeless and live a lifestyle based on bartering. “And so when we have homeless people come here because of the weather or the opulence or whatnot, we get a lot of clashes between the two classes.”
The ACLU has filed five lawsuits against the city — some have been settled and the smoking ban has been struck down by a judge.
Police Chief Bernadette DiPino — who took the helm of the department in late December — says the agency is conducting an internal investigation of both police issues raised by the ACLU.
“The city of Sarasota is working aggressively to learn as much as it can to learn about homeless issues in this community,” DiPino said. “There’s been a number of complaints from citizens and business owners about people who are sleeping or on the sidewalks or are begging for money. We try to apply the appropriate response to the complaints we’re getting from citizens.”
Notice that those who are homeless are not referred to as citizens. Read about how park benches were removed here.